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How will we spend the surplus?

that redemption once effected [paying off the national debt], the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the states, & a corresponding amendment of the constitution, be applied, in time of peace, to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, & other great objects within each state. in time of war, if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be by increased population & consumption, & aided by other resources reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expences of the year, without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works; & a return to a state of peace a return to the progress of improvement.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know being debt free opens lots of doors.
Jefferson anticipated a budget surplus and suggested this for the excess:
1. Some would be returned to the states on fair basis.
2. With a Constitutional Amendment, some would be spent on infrastructure, arts, education and commerce in peacetime.
3. In war time, increased consumption by an increasing population, along with other sources of income, would provide the revenue necessary for fighting.
4. War would be only “a suspension of useful works,” and peace would bring their return.
4. The present generation must not cripple the ones to come by passing present debt into the future.

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Let the rich pay all the taxes!

The remaining revenue, on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts … it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask What farmer, what mechanic, what labourer ever sees a tax-gatherer of the US.? these contributions enable us to support the current expences of the government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, & to apply such a surplus to our public debts, as places at a short day their final redemption …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Frugal leaders enrich their constituents.
An earlier post detailed how Jefferson was shrinking the overgrown government and eliminating the internal taxes required to support it. There was still one important source of tax revenue, though, customs duties on imported goods. Who paid those taxes? Only those prosperous enough to purchase non-necessities from Europe. The vast majority of citizens were tax-free.

The customs tax on the imported goods of the well-to-do provided enough revenue to pay the nation’s bills, domestic and foreign. Thus, Jefferson could now boast, along with his fellow citizens, “What farmer, what mechanic, what labourer ever sees a tax-gatherer of the US.?”

Should those customs duties produce a surplus, Jefferson had a plan for the excess, to reduce the public debt and hasten the day when America would be debt free.

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Leave a comment Posted in Taxes Tagged , , , , , |

The taxman cometh NO MORE!

At home, fellow-citizens … the suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expences, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. these covering our land with officers, & opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property & produce.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Empowering leaders free their constituents from harrassment.
After foreign affairs, Jefferson turned his attention to taxes, a key issue on the domestic front. He thought the national government had expanded far beyond its authority. It took a lot of taxes on its citizens to run those operations. That, in turn, necessitated tax collectors “covering our land.”

What he called “domiciliary vexation” was taxation within one’s home and property. It had begun under the previous administration, and he put a stop to it. Otherwise, it would extend until “every article of property and produce” was taxed.

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How do we regard other nations?

In the transaction of your foreign affairs, we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations … we have done them justice on all occasions … cherished mutual interests & intercourse on fair & equal terms. we are firmly convinced and we act on that conviction, that with nations, as with individuals, our interests, soundly calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties. and history bears witness to the fact, that a just nation is trusted on it’s word …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Just leaders value honest relationships with other leaders.
Jefferson’s first inaugural address was forward-looking, the aspirations that would guide his administration. This report, four years later, would be an assessment of their progress toward those goals.

He began with foreign affairs, affirming the nation’s commitment to friendship with all and fairness in its dealings. He said there could be no difference between moral duties and actual performance. That rule applied both to individuals and nations. A nation which was just, like an individual who was just, could be counted on to do what they said they would do.

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I must make time for you!

My Dearest Ellen –
I owe a letter to you & one to your sister Anne. but the pressure of the day on which this is written, and your Papa’s departure permits me to write only to you, to inclose you a poem about another namesake of yours, and some other pieces worth preserving. as I expect Anne’s volume is now large enough, I will begin to furnish you with materials for … a new volume … I am called off by company therefore god bless you, my dear child, kiss your Mama and sisters for me, and tell them I shall be with them in about a week from this time.
To Ellen Wayles Randolph, March 4, 1805

NOTE:
For some time, I have excerpted the significant letters written by Jefferson during his first full year as President. To change it up a bit, I’m now turning the clock ahead to the first year of his second term. That begins with this letter written March 4, 1805.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders make time for their grandchildren!
Eight year old Ellen Randolph (1796-1876) was Jefferson’s fourth grandchild from his daughter, Martha. He was sending her poems and other writings to begin a new scrapbook with material he would supply. He had done the same for her 15 year old sister Anne (his first grandchild) and wanted to continue the tradition with Ellen. In time, she would become one of her grandfather’s favorites.

He had to squeeze this grandfatherly duty in before the “pressure of the day” overwhelmed him. The company calling for him was to escort him to his 2nd inauguration as President of the United States.

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You must get outside of yourself!

I am convinced our own happiness requires that we should continue to mix with the world … every person who retires from free communication with it is severely punished afterwards by the state of mind into which they get … I can speak from experience on this subject. from 1793. to 1797. I remained closely at home, saw none but those who came there, and at length became very sensible of the ill effect it had upon my own mind, and of it’s direct & irresistible tendency to render me unfit for society, & uneasy when necessarily engaged in it. I felt enough of the effect of withdrawing from it … it led to an antisocial & misanthropic [reclusive, cynical] state of mind, which severely punishes him who gives into it: and it will be a lesson I shall never forget as to myself.
To Maria Jefferson Eppes, March 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders must be alert to the danger of self-isolation.
Jefferson began this letter expressing his dismay that Maria and her family would not be spending the summer at Monticello. He was concerned she was withdrawing too much from outside contact and confronted the issue directly.

Happiness depended upon regular contact with others, and there were ill-effects from isolation. He had experienced it himself in the four years in between being Secretary of State and Vice-President. He recognized that withdrawing from company finally made him unfit for company.

Assuming his advice would have the desired effect, he went on to describe in detail two possible routes Maria might take traveling to Monticello. But ever the realist, he said he would see her during his August – September break from yellow fever prone Washington if she didn’t come for the summer.

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I would rather pay too much than too little.

I formerly mentioned to you that I should want another fine horse, a match for Castor … I must pray you to look out for a fine one. I need not say here of what sort, as you know my ideas fully on that subject as well … respecting price. where the animal is superfine, we must not stand [opposed to?] giving something more than he may be worth; because in buying one not superfine the whole money is thrown away.
To John Wayles Eppes, March 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What leadership principle can be drawn from this?
Next to his books, riding a horse was Jefferson’s favorite personal activity. He owned horses throughout his life, often naming them for characters in ancient history or mythology. Here he enlisted his son-in-law’s help in finding another. Jefferson’s taste in horses was well-known within his family, because he didn’t bother to describe what he wanted. Eppes already knew.

Jefferson did not want just any horse but one that was “superfine.” He was prepared to pay a premium for such an animal, almost regarding it as an investment. He would rather waste a little extra money to buy the best than waste the entire purchase price settling for something that was just average.

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Despite our differences, join me for a meal, please.

Th: Jefferson requests the favour of The Honble Mr. Dwight Foster to dine with him the day after tomorrow—at half after three, or at whatever later hour the house may rise.
Monday Feb 1st. 1802.
The favour of an answer is asked.
To Dwight Foster, February 1, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders make efforts to connect with their opponents.
I have featured Jefferson’s dinner invitations before, drawing attention to his use of his name alone, rather than his predecessors’ practice of including their title, “President Washington/Adams requests …” This invitation shows another aspect of the President’s thinking.
Foster was a lawyer and Massachusetts Federalist, a former Congressman and now Senator. We don’t know the agenda for that dinner, but we know this: Jefferson invited a political opponent to join him for an evening meal at the President’s House. Chances are the primary focus was intellectual discussion over good food and wine. Anything political would have come later. Bridge-building, 101.

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This is very practical help we can give.

These people are becoming very sensible of the baneful effects produced on their morals, their health & existence by the abuse of ardent spirits: and some of them earnestly desire a prohibition of that article from being carried among them. the legislature will consider whether the effectuating that desire would not be in the spirit of benevolence & liberality which they have hitherto practised towards these our neighbors, and which has had so happy an effect towards conciliating their friendship.
To the Senate and House of Representatives, January 27, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Benevolent leaders are sensitive to the concerns of the less powerful.
In this report, the President recommended a number of actions on behalf of the Indians. Here he asks Congress to extend the “benevolence & liberality” already demonstrated toward the tribes and prohibit the sale of alcohol among them. Natives themselves recognized that liquor harmed “their morals, their health & existence.” A month later, Congress granted the President the authority to limit or prevent its sale.

In another part of this report, Jefferson suggested changing capital punishment from hanging to firing squad. Indians found hanging so repugnant they were reluctant to turn accused persons over for trial.

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I have had it with you!

Having daily to read voluminous letters & documents for the dispatch of the public affairs, your letters have consumed a portion of my time which duty forbids me any longer to devote to them. your talents as a divine I hold in due respect … of the special communications to you of his will by the supreme being, I can have no evidence, and therefore must ascribe your belief of them to the false perceptions of your mind. it is with real pain that I find myself at length obliged to say in express terms what I had hoped you would have inferred from my silence. Accept of my respects & best wishes.
To David Austin, January 21, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even patient leaders have their breaking points.
This is an extraordinary response from a very self-controlled but obviously exasperated man!

Since Jefferson’s inauguration 10 months earlier, the minister Austin had written to him 26 times. Austin offered advice and criticism, begged for a face-to-face meeting, almost insisted on a job, and suggested he had divine solutions to the President’s biggest problems. Finally, the confrontation-hating Jefferson had had enough. His blunt reply made these points:
1. I am too busy to read any more of your letters.
2. I respect your position as a minister.
3. Your claim God has spoken to you must be self-deception.
4. My lack of reply should have told you I wasn’t interested.
5. Since you didn’t grasp that, it grieves me that I must tell you so outright.
5. I will be respectful of you in concluding this letter.

Undeterred for a time, Austin wrote six more letters in the next four months and a seventh and final letter in 1804.

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